Pearl Harbor Survivor Has Front Row Seat To History - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Pearl Harbor Survivor Has Front Row Seat To History

Jim Leavelle Jim Leavelle
Jim Leavelle is pictured here, handcuffed to Lee Harvey Oswald, the alleged assassin of President John F. Kennedy. Jim Leavelle is pictured here, handcuffed to Lee Harvey Oswald, the alleged assassin of President John F. Kennedy.
He was also only 21 years old when he witnessed the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor. He was also only 21 years old when he witnessed the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor.

By Joann Shin

(KHNL) - When 86 year old Jim Leavelle talks, you listen.

He's witnessed some pivotal moments in our nation's history.

"You had a ring side seat, so you could see it," explained Leavelle.

He was 21 years old when he witnessed the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor. He was a Navy shopkeeper on board the U.S.S. Whitney.

"You could see the things exploding, you could see the fire. What stayed with me more than anything else, was when the Arizona blew up," recounted the Pearl Harbor survivor.

More than twenty years later, Leavelle witnessed another tragedy.

He appears in a famous black and white photo, handcuffed to Lee Harvey Oswald, the alleged assassin of President John F. Kennedy.

Leavelle, a homicide detective for the Dallas Police, was there when Oswald was shot and killed.

"I knew Lee Harvey Oswald was going to be shot and there wasn't a thing I could do about it. Kind of like the Pearl Harbor day, I knew what was happening, but there wasn't anything I could do about it, it was happening too fast," said Leavelle.

When asked if it's a blessing or burden to witness such events, Leavelle can't give a clear answer. But he's certain of the legacy he hopes to leave behind.

He said, "I'd really like to be remembered for the truth of what happened in both incidents."

Leavelle served as a technical director on Oliver Stone's 1991 movie "JFK".

This is only his second time here in Hawaii since leaving in 1942.

He's retired and lives in Dallas, Texas with his wife.

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